★ ★ ★ ★
WRESTLING THE EEL
By Dee Mulrooney
I make art at my kitchen table, in the small cracks of time that open up throughout my day. In between the humdrum of daily tasks, the cooking, the cleaning, the washing as well as a full-time job and family life.
Pencils, paints, half-finished pieces lay scattered on the surface where we gather to eat, talk, sing and share. In the space of a day or over a week I gestate and birth these little offerings.
I’ve been thinking about the process a lot lately, it’s always the same. An image arrives in my head. I begin, pencil to paper, then the familiar frustration, almost anger, until the image is sketched. The flow begins and I AM PRESENT, engaged and at times lost in the unfolding. I don’t need to “get” into that state. I don’t need quiet or an empty house, it just happens and I’m satisfied. When the piece is complete a slight dip in mood is felt, then the sneaky self-doubt: it could be better, it’s shite. Who do you think you are?
I share on social media and get my sugar rush – the likes, the comments and sometimes the shares. There is usually a day or less of empty space, this allows the sinking feeling to lower its anchor and I feel heavy and sad. I await her inevitable arrival.
All the while, I go to school where I teach art. I drag myself through the day. I shop, I cook, I clean, I parent, I wife, I friend and sister.
My anchor has moored my boat in the doldrums, a place where nothing moves and there is an air of doom. I’m helpless when she is awakes from the depths of my inner sea. Her form is dim but clear, female with the body of a giant eel, she is blackish green, she moves slowly. Then I hear her call, a screech, a tragic wail.
“What about the planet, the rivers, the seas, the polar ice caps? What about the refugees, the poor souls drowning in my sea? What about the politics, the wars, the corruption? What about Ireland, your parents, your dreams, what about your landlord? What about the dinner, the bills, the tax, what about the fucking dinner???”
I meet her gaze as she emerges from the depths. I am not afraid of her. She is my oldest companion. “What about me?” she asks.
“I see you,” I tell her.
She pulls me into the sea. I’ve been there before. We dive down deep, there is no light, her body is cold and slimy but I don’t mind. There is comfort in the cold and the dark, no one can see me and no one knows I’m there.
I DON’T CARE.
We sink right to the bottom. The sea bed receives me and covers me in a blanket of blackness. I fall asleep, a dreamless rest.
I awaken on the S-Bahn on my way to school. It is autumn, the sunrise is unusually colourful for Berlin, psychedelic, like the ones in Ireland. There are crows in the almost bare trees. My blue sketchbook is open on my lap and my hand is making marks with my favourite pencil on the milky surface. I reach into my pocket for a rubber and my hand touches something cold and heavy, I take out a small iron anchor.
Making art has become a bigger part of my being than I ever expected. I’m a late bloomer, I started making art “on purpose” a few years ago during a time when my mental health was, on reflection, very fragile. We had just moved to Berlin from Ireland, everything we owned including our two boys and our dog packed tightly into a van. I was terrified, unsure and totally out of my comfort zone. I am in no way an adventurer. I needed a container for all the pain and insecurity I was feeling on an individual, as well as a collective, level. I always loved to draw but only during this time of crisis did I realise its potential as a healing modality. Once I started it was like a tap and it has not stop flowing since. My art is a mirror of my inner life, it helps me work things out. It is cathartic.
I started making art with no expectations, purely as a release. But I would be a liar if I said that hasn´t changed. I am certainly seduced by the idea of being “successful”. My own definition would be me being able to thrive financially just making art.
I believe that we are in somewhat of a golden age of creativity right now, if my own circle of artist friends is anything to go by. The quality of art and music being made at the moment is phenomenal. This is most certainly accelerated by technology and social media. The hive mind of the creative collective feeding off of itself. Artists producing and showing their own work without the music industry and galleries. With almost 8 billion people on the planet there are more people making art than ever before. Are there too many of us to be able to be “successful”? What is the point with so much insanely talented competition? Is it worth all the effort just for a few likes and comments to massage my ego?
At this point I would also like to add that I am a performance artist, who dresses up as a giant 80-year-old Vulva called Growler. She transmutes women’s pain through storytelling, song and filthy jokes. It is not easy being Growler and her performances are often met with a wall of silence. I often think after performing “I’m not doing this anymore, what is the point?”.
Despite my doubts, despite my despair, my shadow, despite my eel woman who visits me regularly, the urge to keep going is still there.
I often visit the doldrums with the eel woman, I go to the depths where I don’t care but then something pulls me up, always. There is an irrepressible urge to keep going, not just through the motions but to be fully alive, to continue to create, to laugh, to plan a future. I think this “thing” is my hope or perhaps hope in its own being, an entity separate from me that visits and envelops me with an urge to connect. Perhaps hope is our most ancient ancestor, our most primal instinct, which is why I feel it so deeply, so truly. For me, at the end of it all, art is hope.
Dee Mulrooney is an art activist. Through her own journey, she discovered art as a healing modality, art is her medicine. Dee is primarily inspired by her experience as a female, having grown up in a working class suburb on the Northside of Dublin, she leaves no stone unturned. Concrete is the landscape she is familiar with, the weeds and wild flowers that grow there are her muse.